Welcome to Susan Arendt's latest column on Pocket Gamer. In 2018 we've recruited the best writers and most experienced gamers in the industry and asked them to inspire us. Today Susan takes a look at Shephy, a Switch game all about... sheep bonking...
The thing that's so great about games is how they can encompass a seemingly infinite number of scenarios. Sure, most of them fall into the "saving the world/galaxy/neighborhood" variety, but you can grow gardens, solve logic puzzles, draw silly pictures... if you can imagine it, there's likely a game that does it.
I honestly didn't expect anyone to imagine sheep having sex, but perhaps that's a failing on my part.
In card game Shephy, your goal is to encourage enough sheep bonking to create a herd 1000 strong. Fortunately, you don't need to assist with the actual wooing of the ewes - that part happens behind the scenes.
Your job is to play cards in the ideal order to get those baby sheep in the field - which is surprisingly tricky thanks to Shephy's unusual solitaire structure.
You have a set number of runs through your deck to grow your herd to the necessary size, and each round, you must play every card you're dealt - including a number of disasters that can lay waste to your woolly pals.
Rock slides, wolves, and disease can turn your well-tended herd to so much mutton in a moment, while cards like "be fruitful" let you (duh) multiply your sheepies. Other cards aid in keeping the field tidy by grouping your flock into collections of 10 or 100, which is vital, as you only have a set number of card-holding slots.
Shephy isn't about deck building so much as it is being able to hedge your bets against the woes you know are coming. Turning your field into a sex palace producing new sheep as quickly as possible seems like a sound decision, until you turn the card forcing you to remove all but one card from play.
Some of your success is down to dumb luck, because there's not a whole lot you can do if you get dealt a hand of nothing but misery, but even that is part of Shephy's strange and appealing nature.
You will lose a lot at Shephy until you begin to understand its quirky nature, and learn how to turn its disasters to your advantage. Once you clock how the world of sheep sex works, you should have no trouble regularly besting the solitaire mode and can move onto story mode, called "Post Love."
Look. I've been around the block once or twice. I have been to more than one rodeo. I cannot even begin to explain what the hell is going on in Post Love.
I mean, mechanically, it's a challenge mode. Now that you know the deck, the goal is to win under specific conditions, like only taking a certain number of cards, or only running through the deck once.
It's incredibly challenging, forcing you to think beyond the strategies that worked so well in the solitaire mode, and besting a level is immensely satisfying.
But as for the story...I mean, there's the dreams you have when you're really sick and hyped up on a whole bottle of Nyquil and then there's this.
The easy answer is that Post Love fell prey to some wonky localization, but y'know... I like to think it's exactly the way it's meant to be: largely unintelligible, yet also vaguely profound. Odes will be written to Post Love. Doctoral theses will be written about it. Bards will sing of its mysteries.
And hey, the art is freakin' adorable. So get on out there and get your sheep in the mood.
Read more of Susan Arendt's columns on Pocket Gamer, and find out more about Shephy at the game's official site. If you're looking for more columns, then check out Harry Slater and Jon Jordan, who are always on-hand with sharp, tasty opinions too.